NEW YORK -- Out of the Manhattan Ballroom and upstairs to the Empire Ballroom in the Grand Hyatt. A sea of reporters and cameras stretched the length of the monstrous hallway before finally being ushered in for the American Leauge session, which just ended. Here are some quick impressions:
---Manny Ramirez was the only no-show (as usual). Some wondered if Alex Rodriguez would be on hand given all the Madonna talk but A-Rod showed (right) and answered every question -- about baseball. There were two Yankee and MLB officials behind his podium, clearly making sure the topic stayed straight. The only media mob close to what I saw around A-Rod was last year's cluster around No. 25 in San Francisco. A-Rod, of course, attracted all the extras you don't normally see here like Inside Edition, CNN and the like. And the mob was about 20 deep but I didn't hear any bizarre questions or answers.
---Derek Jeter on Yankee Stadium's last All-Star hurrah: "It should steal the attention. The stadium should be the story. It deserves this attention, this going-away party."
---Lots of talk about the odd bedfellows Red Sox and Yankees players will make with the rogues from Boston getting inside the sacred home clubhouse.
A-Rod: "Sharing my locker room with the Red sox will be weird."
Derek Jeter: "They'll be fine -- we stuck them all in the corners."
Jason Varitek: "I'm worried they might put my chair outside."
Dustin Pedroia: "That's going to be weird. We know one way down the hall. One way to the field -- to go out and get booed. Now we're in the other dugout and we're going to be cheered? Hmmm."
---Joe Girardi was smiling at his podium and even had his young children helping hold reporters' microphones.
---Grady Sizemore insists he's not trying to hit home runs this year in the wake of injuries to Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez. And he's not worried about his swing getting affected by tonight's Home Run Derby. As for BP pitcher Jeff Datz, the former Bisons manager, Sizemore said, "I'm telling him to throw BP just like he always does -- but I don't want him to get mad if I stand there and take a few extra pitches while I'm taking it all in."
---Mariano Rivera said he's fine with not starting the game, as large segments of the New York media were pushing for. And Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon said he's fine if his own manager, Terry Francona, uses Rivera to close it out rather than go to his own man. "Hey, [Rivera] is like the Godfather of closer, no pun intended since we're in New York," Papelbon joked.
---Lots of reporters crowded around Josh Hamilton's table to get the story of the former No. 1 pick's battle back from drugs and alcohol abuse. Lots of Latin media crowded with Rivera and David Ortiz.
I'm not figuring on anywhere near the drama or interest in the National League session, which begins at 1:40. But I'll put an update here on anything that might pop up.
UPDATE: As I suspected, there wasn't nearly the crowd for the NL media hour. Cubs manager Lou Piniella regaled the masses with his memories of Yankee Stadium and lots of talk about his first-place club. It was "Cubs Row" with eight players in the room from Chicago. Kosuke Fukudome got most of the attention from the Japanese media with an even bigger crowd than Ichiro got. Not too many other mob scenes. I was able to chat up Cubs closer Kerry Wood and ex-Bison Ryan Ludwick of the Cardinals quite a bit without 20 boom mics flying in over my head, so that was different.
(Photo: Associated Press)